Explained: What Makes Kashmiri Saffron World’s Best

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PAMPORE, India — It’s a misty day in the beginning of October. The air is scented with the scent from Crocus sativus, a flower that gives rise to the rare spice, saffron or zafran according to its Persian name.

With the backdrop of imposing snow-capped mountains, and a road that is surrounded by willow trees is an area as large as a football stadium and bursting with pink flowers. Villagers dressed in traditional pherans or woolen dresses, choose the delicate flowers and fill their baskets made of wicker.

at an altitude of nearly 1,600m, saffron is deeply woven into the local economic system with over 22,000 families working in related ventures, most notably within the areas of Pulwama, Srinagar and Budgam. The sought-after spice is extracted in threads out of the stigma or the style of the flowers.

Although there are many different stories regarding how the spice got to India however, the majority of people believe that Iranians introduced it to the subcontinent when their influence grew in the 13th century and onwards and culminated with the Mughal Empire. Iran continues to produce 90 percent of the world’s Saffron.

In the words of Kashmiri legend, during the 12th century the two Sufi saints gifted the local chieftain with a flowering saffron crocus if the saints were healed of a disease. Today, a golden-domed temple and burial ground dedicated to saints are located in the saffron-trading town of Pampore.

Saffron was always a magnet for the attention of the famous and wealthy. The mythical Egyptian leader Cleopatra is believed to have enjoyed baths in saffron because of its aphrodisiacal and cosmetic properties. Egyptians also utilized the spice for embalming as well as in poultices. Minoan goddesses dyed their clothes using the spice. Antioxidants present in the spice — crocin picrocrocin, and safranal are said to decrease inflammation, increase immunity, and help fight depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

Saffron is believed as worth more than its worth in gold. A kilo of the spice could cost as much as $4,000in part because it needs up to 150,000 blooms to create the same quantity. Since the seeds that are generated in the bloom are sterile farmers can propagate the flowers sexually with bulbs, which are referred to as corms.

It is also an ingredient used in cooking by Kashmiris to flavor stews, broths and kebabs, as in milk to break the Ramadan fast. It was during Mughal ruling during the reign of Mughal rulers in India that saffron first became utilized to flavor flatbreads, such as shermal, curries made of lamb, and fruit sherbets.

But my personal favorite is Kashmiri green tea infused with saffron, known as kahwa, or kehwa. I discovered it when I first visited the valley. The tea is brewed slowly inside a copper kettle using spices like cardamom or cinnamon. It is served with a splash of honey. Sometimes, it’s decorated with almonds and slivers.

The Kashmiri Saffron is an exclusive product grown in the gorgeous valleys in Kashmir. Saffron is one of the most costly spices available and is believed to be the staple of Indian royal food.

Also known as red gold Also known as red gold’ Kashmiri saffron received an GI tag on the world market that increased its value to the extent that it is now. GI tag allowed it to stand out from its rivals on the market.

In the year 2020, a 30-year record for the longest time was broken in Kashmir where 18 tons of saffron were made. The quality of the saffron is traded on the international market at a price of between three and five lakh rupees for each kilogram.

Saffron has been cultivated for centuries.

Saffron is known as”the King of Spices” and is widely regarded as one of the highest priced spices. It was originally harvested within Kareva in Pampore in the city of Pampore and Budgam within Srinagar. Around 16,000 families in 226 villages are involved in this enterprise.

The saffron cultivation in this area is believed to have begun in the early century BCE. People who had migrated to Central Asia had introduced people to the cultivation of saffron.

What makes Kashmiri Saffron the best?

The Kashmiri Saffron is believed to be the best quality due to the huge concentration of crocin found in it. Crocin is a colorant and has medicinal properties to the saffron. Crocin’s percentage present in Kashmir’s saffron ranges from 8.72 percent, while the equivalent amount in Iran’s saffron ranges from 6.82 percent. It is grown at an elevation of 1500 meters above sea level.

Saffron can be described as the stigma attached to flowers. There are 3-4 stigmas within each flower. The cultivation of the flower is done by hand in the hands of people from the Kashmiri people. They pluck the stigmas using their hands, and dry them off separately. Saffron was used for centuries. It is utilized by the pharmaceutical company as well as the dye industry, therapy and many more.

What does Iranian Saffron affect the Kashmiri Saffron market?

The demand for the highest priced Kashmiri saffron declined in the market as Iranian saffron was introduced to the market. Spain, Iran, and Afghanistan offer saffron that is of low quality at a lower cost.

According to the reports, Iran is currently the most prolific manufacturer of saffron. It grows 300 tons of saffron per year. Following the introduction of Iranian saffron, the cost of Kashmiri saffron has decreased by half from 2007. The present Iran produces anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of the world’s total supply of saffron. Kashmiri Saffron had a detrimental impact due to the introduction of adulterated saffron produced by Iran on the market.

The cost of Kashmiri saffron varies from 1 and 3 lakhs per kilogram. They’re expensive due to the fact that they are created through hand-work. Around two lakh stigmas of saffron are picked by hand.

What is GI Tag (Geographical Indication)?

The GI tag is a specific tag that is given to a particular product category, made from natural, agricultural and manufactured items (handicrafts and industrial products). It is awarded to a product with a unique characteristic and distinctive quality that originates in a specific geographic area. It is believed that up to the present, more than 300 items like Chanderi sarees , Kanjeevaram and sarees, Darjeeling tea, and Malihabadi mangoes are GI-tagged in India.

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